Whether you’re a history buff or
not, you’ve likely heard of Victory Gardens at some point. This is one part of
our nation’s history that I’m actually quite proud of, especially since I’m a
gardener. The story of Victory Gardens is an interesting one, and with current
events keeping many of us at home these days, you may want to consider planting
a food garden like this for your family and community.
What are Victory Gardens?
In simple terms, these were vegetable
gardens grown by average citizens during the World War era. Similar
patriotic type gardens were grown during WWI, but it wasn’t until WWII that the
name Victory Gardens was introduced as a practical way to contribute to the war
The U.S. government asked its citizens to plant their own
vegetable gardens to help with food shortages, and they responded. Nearly 20
million families grew around 40 percent of our country’s vegetables by 1944 –
mine included and probably yours too.
Victory Garden History
Victory Gardens were a continuation of the war gardens aimed
at reducing food shortages during the first World War. Not only did those here
at home rely on food, but our military and even some of its allies did as well.
Since canned fruits and veggies were rationed during this time, civilians were
encouraged to grow their own produce to supplement their needs, stretching
their ration coupons, and prevent possible hoarding of food.
Shortly after the United States entered World War II, promotion
of Victory Gardens began with numerous pamphlets handed out to guide urban and
suburban gardeners. A number of magazines and newspapers published helpful
articles, and patriotic posters went out urging participation. The U.S.
government even printed recipe books on preparing homegrown vegetables for
meals. This huge media campaign proclaimed that “Food will win the war.”
These gardens were grown all over the United States, and
women were particularly encouraged to plant Victory Gardens in their yards
while their husbands were off fighting. You could find these gardens in all
shapes and sizes, much like today. People grew Victory Gardens on farms, in
backyards, on city
rooftops, or in window boxes. Community
gardens were planted in parks and vacant lots, and many schools
had their own gardens which provided fresh vegetables for school lunches.
Basically, anything could be grown in a Victory Garden.
Whatever fruits, vegetables, and herbs were necessary to supplement food was
grown. Most common were vegetables like tomatoes,
Interestingly, it was thanks to Victory Gardens that both Swiss
chard and kohlrabi
became popular, as they’re easy to grow. Much of the produce was preserved for
winter, and there was no shortage of women’s magazines having articles about
how to can, store, dry, pickle, and freeze one’s harvest. Communities were also
encouraged to share
their surplus with others.
My own family took part in this, and my mom remembers
stories about the family growing food to supplement rationing. And, while I
could not find any specific information on troops growing their own food, I
managed to come across an old photo of my grandfather in a garden during WWII
with other soldiers. If anyone would have been gardening, it most certainly
would have been him. He could grow just about anything. There was also a
community garden associated with Euclid Beach, near where my mother grew up in
Ohio. The park grew watermelons
on their popcorn farm and auctioned them off to help raise funds and feed
others at the same time.
Growing Victory Gardens gave Americans a feeling that they were
doing something helpful. I take pride in knowing that my family participated.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do this naturally, without any war or quarantine…
just because. Think of all the people we could help while doing what so many
gardeners enjoy anyway.
The story behind Victory Gardens is an interesting one and you
can celebrate this Victory Garden history by growing your own World War II era
garden, or any type of veggie garden, with heirloom
plants of the time, or grow your favorites. Planting a food garden is a rewarding
endeavor. And don’t forget to help your neighbors by sharing your surplus with
others in the community!